Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Green Giving and Living for the Holidays

The autumn and winter holidays, extending from late October through January, are a time of giving, crafting feasts from the gifts of the land and sea, and sharing gifts and experiences that have meaning or explore human capacity (for instance, ice skating which-- for some-- stretches that capacity). It is also marked by a wild uptick in garbage and food waste. But alas, you need not feel guilty but merely shift your thinking. Some of the ideas below are also good for business as they reduce waste, illustrate the ways your company gives back to the community and lightens the load on the planet and all its critters and planetary citizens.

The Tree: Many of you may not want silver or blue holiday trees but if you take care of an artificial tree, it will last many years as opposed to a live tree. If you want a brainiac life cycle assessment which compares artificial to natural trees to impress people over holiday beverage fiestas, look here. If not, please compost your tree (check your local government for where and how). If you venture to Swanson's nursery in Seattle next winter holiday, you can buy one of their Evergreen trees which you can return part of the Seattle Green Partnership's restoration program. They all entice with Reindeer and Camels. As you decorate, note that great strides have been made in LED color and bulb sizing and they are found virtually everywhere, and can save you considerable money in energy costs.

Experiences (what else for tourism?): There is nothing like a sparkly, ribbon festooned packaged hidden somewhere in your home or business but what lies within can be an experience rather than a physical item. Learn how to: swim, do ballet, kick someone's #$*& with martial arts (if need be), climb a mountain, paint with watercolor or learn a new language. If you want to help rural villagers throughout the world you can purchase a part or whole of an animal through Heifer International. There are ample opportunities to donate to food banks, toy drives, or volunteer with hundreds of different organizations.

Give a Second Life (by Recycling and Composting): Most of the cards, paper, plastic and other byproducts of holiday giving can be recycled or composted. See for a listing or the Department of Ecology's recycling page or county specific links. Of particular note is electronics which are full of toxic materials and are often illegally shipped overseas and handled by children and older villagers. Lucky for us, Washington is in its third year of E-Cycle Washington. Check out the site to see how to recycle or donate everything from cell phones to computers.

Food A Go-Go: Ok, we all gorge ourselves until silly this time of year but there are still ways businesses can donate food. Food donors are protected from liability if they use due care and this is also an unprecedented time of need in Washington's communities. For consumers, food that cannot be donated can often be commercially composted depending on where you live and you can always do backyard composting with select materials. Businesses can compost commercially or a local farmer may take your goodies. A great tool to find a compost facility is here.

Other Nifty Tid Bits: There are a number of web sites that offer ways to make creative gift wrap, donate used holiday cards or give back by giving certain gifts. Look here and frolic there. Wishing the world a more peaceful, nurturing and loving 2012.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Menu Project

The Menu Project
by Ellen J. Wallach

You’ve probably never thought about what happens to old menus.  They are made to be disposable.  Used, abused, and soiled by unwashed hands and random food splatters, they are unceremoniously thrown out or, more recently, recycled. I’d never thought about them either until two months ago.

In an effort to purge our possessions for an anticipated move, my husband arrived in the kitchen with a pock-marked 1950s white suitcase, the kind that weighs 40 lbs. empty. I had seen it in the basement over the years, but never knew where it came from or what was in it. He inherited it twenty years ago when his neighbor was moving.  It contained almost 100 menus from the 1940s through the 1970s. The neighbor “liberated” menus from restaurants mostly in the Northwest where he lived. This was his collection.

Some are plain. Some are beautiful. Some are works of art. All are interesting. They are in all sizes and some are shapes- a clown head for a children’s menu, a slab of steak for the Old Country Kitchen, and an arrowhead for the Indian Village Restaurant.  Each menu is a peek at a culture that existed 40 or more   years ago. What did we eat? What did we drink? How much did it cost?  This is anthropological research I couldn’t recycle. Now what?

Thus, began the menu project- finding homes for over-the-hill  cartes. These were not pristine beauties. Where to begin? Google. Most of the restaurants no longer exist. Even extensive restaurant chains have disappeared and so have the prices!

The Camlin Hotel in Seattle (described in their 1947 menu as “Smartness in Hotel Accommodation,” had a restaurant with great views, The Cloud Room.  It is no longer a hotel but part of the Wyndham Vacation Ownership group.  The Cloud Room is now a number of upscale penthouses.  The most expensive menu item was Filet Mignon for $3.25. Coffee was $.10.

Inn at the Quay in Spokane, Washington specialized in flaming desserts- Cherries Jubilee and Peach Flambe for $1.75. The house specialty was Tips & Tails- tenderloin beef tri-tips and imported lobster tails. The price included soup or salad, baked potato, and individual loaf of bread and coffee. Price? $5.50.

As you might guess, restaurants in the mid 20th century were featuring a lot of meat, all inclusive meals (salads, potato, rolls and coffee,) and coffee meant caffeinated. Sanka was decaf. There are menu items  rarely seen anymore: Pineapple Welsh Rarebit, Flaked Chicken a la King, Finnan Haddie, and Hot Mince with Rum Sauce.  

The menus are finding their ways to new homes- the amateur historian for the city of Palo Alto took three of them; Ivar’s, an institution in Seattle, is now home to a large menu cutout of The Captain; and the Heathman and Benson Hotels in Portland have repatriated their menus.
The next time you are out, think about what people in 2070 might say about us. Look at the prices we consider high. I bet you’d rather be ordering from my menus.

Ellen J. Wallach is an organizational development consultant in Seattle, Washington. She is fascinated by how people in other cultures and times live. 

Wooing the Media: Three tips for gaining and sustaining media support

Wooing the Media: Three tips for gaining and sustaining media support
by Allen Cox

You operate a travel or tourism company with a focus on sustainability. Your operating practices support your vision. Your organization helps sustain the environment, communities, local economies and cultures. You enrich your customers' and affiliates' lives. You're living your dream and helping others live theirs.

But is your organization's good work the world's best kept secret?

With sustainability emerging as a fundamental travel and tourism expectation, your message must set you apart and resonate with your audience. What's one of your biggest allies in making that happen? The media—print, online, broadcast and social.

You can gain and sustain media support by incorporating three basic strategies into your operating plan:

1. Craft a compelling message.

You know your organization better than anyone. What's it about? What's the customer experience? What are the positive outcomes of your operation? Who does your company benefit, and how?

The answers to these questions and others should be components of a well-crafted message. They form your image. They attract customers to your business and bring media to your door.

Examine your existing messaging points and get some objective, third-party input. Test it on a focus group. If the message needs improvement, revise until it gets to the heart of your story.

2. Educate your staff.

You might have a crack team that knows your product or service and has the passion to play out your vision. But when it comes to communicating with media, is that crack team struck silent?

Help your team with the fundamentals of media relations. Identify your key messengers and host a Media Relations 101 session. Bring in an outside trainer, or if one of your staff is versed on the topic, conduct a session in house. Then, craft and roll out a media relations plan tailored to your company and budget.

3. Educate the media.

Sustainable travel and tourism organizations are sources of some the most positive stories on the planet. Just as your consumers expect to do business with a company that operates sustainably, they also love to read or listen to stories about sustainable companies—your company.

You have a positive story. Someone in the media will want to tell it. How to make and sustain that media connection is the key. First, know who your media audience is. Do some research to compile a media list: comb through mastheads of industry publications for the right editors and writers, or engage a PR pro that already has a list of your media dream team. Second, invite the media to experience your products or services as your guest (if they can't accept freebies, they'll tell you). Third, master the press release; this can and should be a powerful tool in sparking media interest.       

For many business owners and organizations, how to get media excited about what you're doing ranks among the world's greatest mysteries. Take it from me—a member of the media—there are ways of attaining positive page space, air time or megabytes in cyberspace. Think of it as a courtship. Make that media first date something special and shoot for a long-term relationship. Depending on your prowess (or lack of), this might require a matchmaker in the form of a tourism marketing consultant or a PR pro. Either way, well-executed efforts pay off by making an effective message ultimately resonate with your target audience.

Allen Cox, freelance writer and editor of HARBORS magazine, travels and writes with a keen interest in sustainability. You can learn more about Allen and his work at  

The Airline Conundrum

The Airline Conundrum
by Steve Gersman

Aircraft account for less than 1.7% of all greenhouse gases although some claim higher figures (The Stern Report). Zip up to 30,000 feet and the emissions of aircraft are multiplied by a factor of 2.7. It’s a natural phenomenon called radiative forcing.

The Stern Review in the U.K. indicates that power stations account for 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions, shipping, train and road transport account for 12.3% and flying accounts for a mere 1.7%. Worldwide deforestation, on the other hand, accounts for 18% (mostly in Brazil and Indonesia).

So it looks, at first glance, that we would be better off to focus on sources of the problem other than aircraft.

However, that is only part of the story. One thing on which all sides agree is that aviation is booming. There are about 17,700 commercial aircraft in the world. Over the next 20 years, manufacturers expect to deliver 25,600 new planes.

Tom Robbins wrote in “The big green dilemma” ( The Observer July 1, 2007), that those demanding an elimination of air travel assume that “tourism is a frivolous, self-indulgent activity which is as pointless as leaving your TV on standby. Even putting aside the benefits to the tourists themselves, this is clearly not the case. Tourism employs around 231 million people, and generates 8-10 per cent of world GDP.”

How can we as consumers do our part? One of the best ways to travel by air if you are an environmentally conscious consumer is to know which airlines operate the newest fleet of aircraft. The newer the plane, the more efficient an airline is in terms of CO2 emissions and other environmental factors. Here is a list of major American airlines calculated in 2010 and 2011.

Average Age in Years*
AirTran 8.1
Colgan Air 
Jazz 16.1
Mesa Airlines 
Virgin America**

Source: (2011)

* The numbers haven’t changed much between 2010 and 2011. It takes time to replace aircraft. Airlines have ordered brand new aircraft but many will take years to deliver and impact the overall age of the fleet.

**Of major significance is the absence of Virgin America in the list. Virgin America was the number one airline for age of fleet in the Greenopia calculation made less than a year before. Given that it is a new airline, there is good reason to believe that Virgin America would rate extremely high on this list had it been included.

A great example of how airlines have become more efficient is Thomas Cook Scandinavia which has the industry’s highest utilisation of seats and the industry’s lowest fuel consumption and CO2 emissions per passenger 66g per passenger. Thomas Cook Airlines UK and Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia have both received the ISO14001 certification for implementing an environmental management system. Only a handful of airlines worldwide have achieved this and two are part of the Thomas Cook Group. Thomas Cook were pioneers of waste management and in flight recycling.

Source: Responsible Aviation Conference at Manchester Airport

Two steps to FlySmart
1. Fly less – take the train wherever possible; reduce your air miles for leisure and work.
2. Fly more carbon efficiently – make purchasing choices that will encourage airlines to reduce their emissions.
Fly direct
Choose a charter flight or economy - your emissions will generally be less.
Choose the airline with the most modern fleet
Carry less baggage
Fly with airlines that fill their planes

Airlines and aircraft manufacturers are making a contribution in their new planes and in other areas such as not running engines until ready to pull back from the gate. Sometimes being environmentally conscious consumer can be a bit inconvenient, but often it doesn’t have to be with some advanced planning.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Agriculinary Tourism

Awaken your Senses with Agriculinary Tourism
Heidi Siegelbaum (written originally for the PURE Travel Collaborative)
Grazing cows dotted the horizon line like toy pieces, cumulus clouds high in the sky framing red barns and ancient twisted fences lining dirt roads. This was Vermont in the 1980s when I lived there. There were no billboards, no overhead telephone wires and a fierce sense of community that still breaths politically through town hall community meetings where local decisions are made.
Part of this economy is our own promise in Washington State as well- helping farms to stay in business, celebrating and promoting local foods within local food systems, introducing people to new foods they have never eaten, bridging the rural-urban divide and connecting people through one of the most fundamental and life affirming social forms on the planet-- the table.
Agriculinary tourism, the many ways to share, celebrate and support farming and food, has old roots in Europe where farm stays are standard fare. In many ways, the desire to engage with farmers, ranchers, fishers, chefs and food artisans-- whether through kale chips or working on a farm, or through our own gardening, the burgeoning rise of city chickens and goats, food trucks and yummy dripping sandwiches-- reflects a deep seated desire to connect with the land, feel alive, connect with people over food and breathe deeply in a visually rich and sumptuous environment. Many urban dwellers are stressed beyond their capacities, wired to the hilt with technology and living in less than clean air environments.
Agriculinary tourism provides a way to relax, to breathe and to reconnect with things that matter in our lives, including building local economies.
Farms and food as expressed in agriculinary tourism offers direct marketing opportunities for farmers, ranchers and fishers which can spell the difference between failure and ensuing development sprawl, and staying in business, being profitable and keeping cultural traditions and places alive.
Agriculinary tourism also offers a historical reference point that can help reconnect us with what matters- community, relationships, land, the people who grow our food, beauty and a desire to protect what is worth protecting- many of those things are intangible. Washington had total farm sales in 2007 of $6.8 billion but net returns to farmers has been declining since 1997 (WSU School of Economic Science). Small and medium sized farms are rapidly disappearing from our landscape and this is a disaster for families, communities and tourism as we understand it.
But there is reason for hope and celebration-- many reasons. Cook books are the #1 book category in sales; we are awash in the Food Network, a return to canning and gardening, a return to food love and importantly, local food as part of a more regional, locally based economy. Washington State residents and visitors love to buy directly from our farmers and the statistics reflect that: 13.7% of all farms in the state are engaged in direct marketing compared to 6.2% nationally (Office of Farmland Preservation, WA).
The first tangible forms of direct marketing were farm stands, followed by U-Pick operations (WA. Grows a lot of fruit, our second highest food production area after beef), farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) subscriptions in which residents buy a “share” up front before the growing season and receive whatever a farm or group of farms grow during that season. At this point, boasts over 100 Farmers Markets and that number grows nearly every few months.
Agriculinary tourism is everywhere if you look for it: value added food products like jams, salsas, breads, butters, sauces, juice, crackers, beer and wine; places you can visit and learn such as 21 Acres, a plethora of wedding sites, wine/spirit/beer tasting and tours, places to stay such as Dog Mountain Farm and Bull Hill Ranch, farm tours, harvest celebrations and kid friendly farm activities such as corn mazes, pumpkin patches and visits with friendly farm animals.
Savor Washington has links to many of these places, people and events, as do WSU extension offices across the state. Some of the regulatory barriers to more fully developed farm stays, cooking schools, community conversation space and a linked trail system that connects farms with value added food, restaurants and the broader tourism context include local zoning laws, labor issues, population growth and land values (which push farmers to sell their land), succession planning, and available water for irrigation.
If you own a restaurant, an inn, a tour company or guide service, you can help grow agriculinary tourism and its real promise by buying from local farmers, ranchers and fishers, supporting farmland preservation efforts and building community by supporting local food systems. Bon Appetite!
Heidi Siegelbaum and Steve Gersman